Thursday, September 30, 2010

WRC Mini Cooper

Mini will be returning to the World Rally Championship next year... and, slightly unexpectedly, will be doing so with the Cooper Countryman S. This actually makes a lot of sense, as the Countryman is already available with 4WD, hence eliminating the need for drivetrain homologation which would be faced if BMW were to use the smaller Cooper.

Developed by Prodrive, the Countryman will be powered by a turbocharged 1600cc four-banger and, while it doesn't really resemble the plucky rally Minis of yore, at least they've made an effort with the bonnet-mounted lamp pod - and you see that no.37 plastered down the sides? That was the number of Paddy Hopkirk's Mini in which he won the Monte Carlo rally in 1964.

Spa Six Hours 2010

The 2010 Spa Six Hours took place last weekend, stretching the legs of a variety of classic racers around the gloriously picturesque Spa circuit. As well as the six hour endurance race, other events included Grand Prix Masters, Open-Wheel Historics, Top Hat Masters and the Stirling Moss Trophy. You can learn more about the event here, and see a wonderful set of photos here.

Click images to enlarge.

Gingham S13 V8

The S13 Nissan Silvia is a tremendously popular drift car, for the obvious reasons of ubiquity, tuneability and comparatively light weight. But in a scene flooded with modified examples, how does one stand out? The answer is twofold:
1) A gingham interior that's so shocking it revolves full-circle and swings back into awesomeness.
2) A massive Chevrolet LS2 V8 engine, sure to piss off the JDM fanboys. 6.0 litres and 400bhp? That'll do nicely...

VisualEchoes, via Loxlee

Sabine Schmitz - GT3 RS

Some great onboard footage here of Queen-of-the-'Ring Sabine Schmitz taking a 911 GT3 RS owner for a passenger ride around the Nordschleife.
Keep an eye out for the superb save at 8m30s...

Lamborghini Sesto Elemento

After months of teaser shots and speculation, the Sesto Elemento has finally been unveiled. Recent Lamborghini design language is immediately recognisable, but it's taken to a logical extreme in this hardcore carbon-fibre road racer.
The 562bhp V10 as found in the Gallardo Superleggera powers a machine that weighs an absurdly minimalist 999kg, enabling frankly ridiculous performance. 0-60mph is despatched in just 2.5s - it's basically a four-wheeled Italian superbike. You can draw your own parallels with the KTM X-Bow...

'Sesto Elemento', incidentally, means 'sixth element', representing carbon's position on the periodic table. Nice touch. Time will tell whether this sleek sliver of carbon will inform the design of the Murcielago's forthcoming replacement.

Via Evo

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'A Part of Italy'

'Every Lamborghini is handmade in Sant'Agata Bolognese'. This beautiful new ad campaign reminds consumers what's important - yes, they may be under German ownership, but they're 100% red-blooded Italians.

Click images to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

History of Mercedes Benz

This history of Mercedes-Benz starts in the late 1800s and ends with their post World War I experience. Mercedes-Benz is a car produced by the Daimler-Benz company of Germany. The Daimler-Benz company was founded through a merger in 1926. In the mid-1880s, Gottlieb Daimler (1834–1900) worked with Wilhelm Maybach (1846–1929), and Karl Benz (1844–1929) and independently invented the internal combustion engine-powered automobile in southwestern Germany.
Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler
Gottlieb Daimler (left) and Carl Benz (right)
In 1886, Benz built a motorized tricycle. The Victoria, built in 1893, was his first four-wheeler. The first production car was the 1894 Benz Velo, which participated in the first-recorded car race - the Paris-Rouen race. In 1895, Benz built his first truck.
In 1886, Daimler built a horseless carriage. In 1888, Daimler made a business deal with William Steinway (of piano fame) to produce Daimler's products in the United States. From 1904 until a fire in 1907, Steinway produced Mercedes passenger cars - Daimler's light trucks - and his engines in Long Island.
On March 8, 1886, Daimler purchased a stagecoach made by Wilhelm Wimpff & Sohn. Daimler and Maybach modified it to hold an internal combustion engine. No other travel vehicles of the time were propelled by this type of engine. It was a carriage without horses. Daimler and Maybach built the first four-stroke engine-powered automobile with four wheels in 1889. They founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1890 and sold their first automobile in 1892.

In 1899, DMG automobiles built in Untert├╝rkheim, Germany were raced successfully by automobile enthusiast and dealer Emil Jellinek. Jellinek had the name of his daughter, Mercedes, painted on the automobiles for good luck. Jellinek's desire for faster race cars spurred the development of the 1902 DMG model that would be the first of the DMG Mercedes series, bearing the name of his daughter. Lighter and smaller, the new Mercedes had a 35 horse power and a top speed of 55 miles per hour (mph)!
Benz was also busy. He founded Benz & Cie. The company became the world's first and largest manufacturer of automobiles by 1900. In 1903, the Parsifil was Benz's response to the Mercedes. A two cylinder vertical engine produced a top speed of 37 mph in this car.
Emil Jellinek

Aware of the promotional potential of racing, both Daimler and Benz entered many of them. Until 1908, Daimler had overshadowed Benz in racing endeavors. But at the 1908 French Grand Prix, Benz took second and third place behind a Mercedes. From that point on, both Benz and Daimler did well in racing.

WWI and Afterward
At the beginning of WWI, both factories were converted into war production sites, but afterwards both resumed car production.
The falling German economy hurt both companies. There was very little fuel for cars and a 15 percent luxury tax on automobile production hurt sales. This market sent Benz and Cie. seeking a partner. The only one the board considered was DMG.
It looked like a good deal. Karl Jahn, a Benz board member, approached DMG about a possible merger. There were talks, but it was abandoned in December of 1919. Times were bad for Germany and for both companies. As the German economy worsened, a new Benz automobile eventually cost 25 million marks.
From sheer economic necessity, in 1924 Benz and DMG signed an agreement of mutual interest. The two companies merged with relative ease on June 28, 1926.Although both companies retained their identities, the agreement was valid until the year 2000. This is the fascinating history of Mercedes-Benz.

Rusty's roof chop

You may well be familiar with Mike Burroughs' constantly evolving E28 - if not, click here for a recap.

The latest development to break cover is this rather unusual hillbilly roof chop. In keeping with the nu-rat/WWII bomber aesthetic, he's left the welds on the pillars exposed, as well as crafting a pretty hardcore dash from corroding metal sheet that complements the artfully knackered exterior. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that Burroughs knows how to keep his one-man PR machine spinning. Whatever next, a Merlin aero engine? A donk stance? A hovercraft set-up? Anything could happen, we'll just have to keep guessing.

Here's the full, colourful tale of Rusty:

Lowriding - a way of life

There's so much more to lowriders than just monkeying about with suspension. The ethos of lowrider culture filters through every facet of the owner's lifestyle: it's not just a thing that you own, but an expression of who you are.

And it's all about the hydraulics. No airbags here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Blancpain Edition

Another week, another special edition Lamborghini.

Sorry, that sounds awfully flippant doesn't it? Allow me to start again...
Have you seen the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Blancpain Edition? No? Well, here it is. And it's incredible.

Basing a car on something as epic and thunderous as the Gallardo Superleggera is a pretty good starting point by any standards. The Blancpain Edition (named after a manufacturer of Swiss watches - well, read any high-end car magazine and you'll see that supercar enthusiasts by default have to be Swiss watch enthusiasts as well) features a massive rear spoiler, Skorpius wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes, as well as carbon-fibre aplenty. Power? You're looking at 562bhp, 0-62mph in 3.4s and a top whack of 199mph. But it'll cost you over £200k...


Don't panic... it's not a genuine 964 RS. What we have here is a 964-series 911, slammed on Rayvern Hydraulics over some very wide eighteens. A Marmite creation if ever there was one.

I'm in two minds about this. Part of me thinks that taking one of the purest and most focused driving machines ever conceived and removing any semblance of performance handling from it is a damn shame.
...but another part can't get over how awesome that stance looks.
Full spec and further photos can be found here.

2010 Berg Cup

The jewel in the crown of bergrennen (German for 'hillclimb', of course) is the KW Berg Cup. The suspension manufacturer sponsors the event which attracts bespoke performance machines of all shapes and sizes... although, as you can see from the video, the nature of the event ensures a healthy bias towards German cars.

...and here's a depressing example of what happens when it all goes wrong. Still, that's racing - rebuild and race again!


Aston Martin claim that the One-77's 7.3-litre V12 is 'the most powerful regular-production naturally-aspirated engine in the world'; it produces 750bhp and 553lb.ft without the help of turbo- or superchargers. And it sounds pretty good too, as this latest video from AM demonstrates.

Friday, September 24, 2010

History of BMW

Although BMW's current fame and reputation as one of the greatest automobile manufacturers can be mostly linked to models produced in the last two decades, the history of the marque stretches back almost 90 years and contains numerous achievements that have established it as a benchmark.
The origins of BMW trace back to 1913 when Karl Friedrich Rapp, a Bavarian who had been a well-known engineer in a German aircraft company, formed Rapp Motoren Werke in a suburb of Munich. The company specialized in airplane engines however Rapp found that they were problematic and suffered from excessive vibration. Nearby, Gustav Otto, also an airplane specialist, set up his own shop, Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik, building small aircraft.
Because of the faulty engines, Rapp Motoren Werke secured a contract with Austro-Daimler, who was unable to meet its demands, to build V12 Aero engines under license. The company expanded too quickly, however, and by 1916 Rapp resigned from the company because of financial troubles. In his place Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, two Austrians, took over the company. In March that same year, Rapp Motoren Werke merged with Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik to form Bayersiche Flugzeungwerke. It was shortly afterwards renamed Bayersiche Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), or BMW, forming the company we know today.
In 1917, BMW's first aircraft engine went into production, the 6 cylinder Type IIIa. In 1919, using an aircraft powered by its successor, the Type IV, Franz Zeno Diemer set an altitude record of 9,760 metres (32,013 ft). After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the same year, prohibiting BMW from building aircraft engines, production switched to air brakes for railway cars. When BMW started once again to build aircraft engines in 1922, no fewer than 29 world records in aviation were set with them. The current BMW logo, introduced in 1920, was based on the circular design of an aircraft propeller.
The first BMW motorcycle, the R 32, went into production in 1923 at the newly constructed Eisenach factory next to the Munich airport of the day. The R 32 used a flat-twin engine transversely mounted in a double-tubular frame producing 8.5 horsepower at 3300 rpm. The 2-cylinder 494cc motorcycle could reach a top speed of 59 mph (95 km/h). BMW manufactured 3090 of them during its 3 year life span.
It was 1928 that made history in terms of the BMW car. Produced at the Eisenbach factory, the Dixi 3/15 PS marked the beginning of BMW automobile production. It was built under license from Austin and was essentially the same model as the US Bantam and the Japanese Datsun. The first Dixis used an open roof and were powered by a 743cc 4 cylinder engine producing 15 horsepower. Top speed was in the neighbourhood of 50 mph (80 km/h). In 1929 a new improved version was launched, the DA2, which employed an all-steel body and 4-wheel brakes, and in 1930 the Dixi scored its first wins in motor racing. Total production: 18,976 units.
1932 was the year the BMW AM 4 (Ausfuhrung Munchen 4 Gange - Munich Version 4 Speeds) - a.k.a. BMW's first "real" car - went into production. The AM 4, also called the 3/20 PS, was the successor to the Dixi and the first production car to be built entirely in-house by BMW. The powerplant was a 782cc 4 cylinder unit which featured suspended valves and a double chain driving the camshafts, producing 20 horsepower at 3500 rpm and providing the saloon with a 50 mph top speed.
The next year mark ed the introduction of the 303 saloon and the first BMW inline-six cylinder power unit, a configuration that remains BMW's typical choice even in contemporary cars. The 303 was also the first BMW to use the twin-kidney shaped radiator grilles, another cur rent trademark. Using a welded tubular steel frame, independent front suspension and rack and pinion steering, the 303 was a benchmark in technological achievements. Its 1173cc engine provided 30 horsepower and a top speed of 56 mph (90 km/h).
3 years later, in 1936, the BMW 328 was introduced. It was the most popular and remains BMW's most famous pre-war sports car, the successor to the 315/1 (1934-36). The 328 was built mainly for motor sport, where it proved itself successful by winning the Mille Miglia in Italy in its class in 1938, but quickly became a popular road car as well. A curb weight of only 1830 lb was achieved through the use of an extra-light tubular spaceframe and light alloy parts for the hood, doors and tail end. Using a 1971cc inline-6 cylinder engine with three carburettors that produced a healthy 80 horsepower at 5000 rpm, the 328 could reach a maximum speed of 93 mph (150 km/h). 462 units of this classic were produced in total.
In 1935 BMW entered the record books once again, this time on two wheels. Riding a streamlined 500cc compressor machine developing 108 hp and an amazing power-to-weigh ratio (282 lb curb weight), Ernst Henne set a world speed record for motorcycles of 173.7 mph (279.5 km/h) in 1937. It stood for nearly two decades.
BMW's success was unfortunately short lived. After the Second World War, the company lay in ruins. Its factories had been destroyed or dismantled and a three-year ban on any production activities was imposed by the Allies in response to the production of aircraft engines and rockets by BMW during the War. The first post war model, the V8 equipped 501 luxury sedan produced in 1951 was a poor production choice for a country that was also devastated by the war. Demand was low and the 501 did not even com e close to meeting BMW's expectations.
It was a totally different approach that started to bring BMW back on its feet. In 1955, the Isetta 250 was launched and participated very successfully in the mini-car era of the 1950's. It was built under license from the Italian manufacturer Iso and used a motorcycle engine and a single door at the front. The engine was a single cylinder 245cc unit producing 12 horsepower at 5800 rpm and a top speed of 53 mph (85 km/h). During its 7 year production run a total of 161,728 Isettas were built.
A couple of years later, with BMW still having no secure financial foothold, one of the most memorable models in its history was introduced. Launched in 1956, the BMW 507 quickly became famous. The light-alloy 2-door bodyshell with a retractable soft top, designed by Alberecht Graf Foertz, has remained timeless as evidenced by the newly introduced Z8, which draws unmistakable clues and its overall shape from it. A large 3168cc V8 engine using dual downdraught carburettors powered the 507 and provided 150 horsepower at 5000rpm, enough for an impressive 124 mph top speed (200 km/h) but not enough to topple its main rival, the Mercedes 300SL. While only 252 examples of the instantly recognizable 507 were ever produced, it remains a symbol of BMW's struggles and ultimate triumphs during the fifties after the end of the War.
The next step in BMW's evolution and the predecessor to the cars we know today was launched in 1962. The 1500, which had been developed during the crisis of the '50s, was another of BMW's saviors. The excellent suspension and striking design for its time, employing a low waistline with a low-slung engine compartment and rear lid characterized the 1500. A 1499cc 4-cylinder engine producing 80 horsepower at 5700 rpm and providing a top speed of 92 mph (148 km/h) powered it. During its two year production run sales amounted to only 23,807 units; however between all of the models in its range (1500,1600,1800,2000) production totaled 334,165 cars. Based on these cars, the first generation 5 series, the E12, was launched 10 years later in 1972. The 3 series was introduced 3 years later and the 7 series 2 years after that, in 1977.
In 1990 BMW re-entered the aircraft engine manufacturing business after forming BMW Rolls-Royce GmbH jointly with Rolls Royce. In 1998, after extended talks concerning the sale of Rolls Royce, BMW officially bought the rights to the Rolls Royce name and logo from Volkswagen, with the transition expected to take place in 2003. 1994 brought about another purchase, as BMW acquired the Rover Group PLC. After heavy losses, the company was finally sold in 2000, with Rover being split up from Land Rover which was purchased by Ford. BMW held the rights to the new Mini and the hot-hatch goes on sale in early 2002.
Today, the Z3, Z8 and all of the 3, 5, 7 and Motorsport series models continue the BMW tradition of building excellent automobiles with a special emphasis on performance, style and technological advancements. 1992 was another year-to-be-remembered for BMW when it, for the first time, outsold Mercedes in Europe. Hopefully in the future the rivalry between these and other makes will persist and companies such as BMW will continue to build great cars.